In the countryside: Pâté en Croûte – Venison Pâté in Pastry Crust
by eat in my kitchen
Two weeks ago, we spent a few amazing days in the countryside and the pictures are still as vivid in my mind as if it was only yesterday that our family met at my mothers house to cook together. Our culinary activities became more of a task than usual due to a phone call that my mother received from a local farmer who offered to give her a whole deer. She gladly accepted and various dishes and long dinners later, I can say that I learned a lot!
When I wrote about our fantastic venison stew with apple gratin and spaetzle last week I mentioned that there were more recipes to come from this extensive cooking session and here is another one of them, my cousin Thomas’s Pâté en Croûte! Thomas is a passionate baker and chef and he joined us for this adventure. He skinned and dressed the deer as he acquired this skill during his education as a chef. This was a new experience for me, so I was curious but also a bit nervous. Apart from teaching me how to cut game, he also showed me how he make his delicious venison pâté, an aromatic filling of venison refined with spices and liver wrapped in puff pastry. So finally, another one of my mother’s exotic kitchen purchases came to use, a custom made metal mould with a heavy lid to cook French pies and pâté! The lid prevents the dough from rising too much which would create a space between the pastry and the meat. Traditionally, this air space is filled with aspic through a hole in the top but we left this out as it would have taken another 1-2 days to sit. After we spent so much time in the kitchen we just wanted to enjoy the fruits of our work!
Here are some of the tips I got from Thomas that I didn’t know of before: he told me that for fine pâté and sausages, the meat should be mixed with a bit of crushed iced while it’s puréed in a food processor. If it gets too warm through the mixing process, the protein in the meat can set which stops it from binding while the pâté is cooking. He also adds some egg white with the ice to help the process.
As much as I prefer to use homemade pastry for pies and pâté when it comes to short crust, it’s absolutely fine to use good quality store bought puff pastry for this pâté. That’s what we did and it didn’t do it any harm!
Pâté en Croûte – Venison Pâté in Pastry Crust
For 1 pâté in a 16 x 8cm / 6 x 3″ terrine or pâté mould with a lid you need
puff pastry, defrosted, enough to line all sides of the form plus an overlapping pastry lid
venison, minced or cut into small pieces, 450g / 1 pound
venison, chicken or veal liver, cleaned, 125g / 4.5 ounces
fatty bacon, lardon or fatback, cut into cubes, 125 / 4.5 ounces
organic egg whites, whisked with a fork, 2 plus 1 egg white to seal the puff pastry
ice finely crushed in a food processor, 3 cl / 1 shot
juniper berries, crushed, 2
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
thyme leaves 1 teaspoon
small bay leaf, crushed in a mortar, 1
brandy 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper
lingonberry jam to serve
Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan assisted oven) and butter the mould well.
Roll out the pastry evenly and very thinly and line the mould. Mind that you have enough dough for the top to close the pâté by overlapping the pastry from all sides.
Mix the ice and the 2 egg whites.
In a food processor, purée the meat, bacon and liver, adding the ice-egg white mixture gradually. Add the spices, herbs, garlic and brandy and season with salt and pepper.
Fill the meat mixture into the pastry lined mould and push it down well. Close the pâté with the pastry from the smaller sides first, finishing with 1 long side that should cover the whole mould. Seal well with the mixed egg white. Close with the lid of the mould and bake for 1 -1 1/2 hours. You could check the pâté with a meat thermometer, it should be 75°C / 170°F inside when it’s done.
Here’s another of Thomas’ tips: You can also check with a metal skewer if the pâté is done, insert the skewer into the meat, pull it out and carefully (!) touch your lip to the metal. If it feels cold, it’s not done yet, if it’s hot you can take the pâté out of the oven. Let it cool before you take it gently out of the mould and serve with lingonberry jam.